Volunteer Driver Program: What You Need to Know
Many senior citizens and persons with disabilities need regular medical checkups but fail to do so because transportation isn’t always available.
Non-emergency medical transportation (NEMT) is the answer they have been waiting for. However, just because the NEMT industry is slowly gaining ground doesn't mean that the transportation problem has been solved.
There is an emerging driver issue in the global transportation industry.
- Global Driver Shortage
- Introduction to Volunteer Driver Programs in NEMT
- The Importance of Volunteer Driver Programs in Healthcare Access
- Qualifications and Requirements for Volunteer Drivers in NEMT
- How Does One Avail of Volunteer Drivers?
Global Driver Shortage
The transportation industry needed some 2.6 million drivers in 2022, according to the International Road Transportation Union (IRU), a world organization that supports drivers and transportation companies. The organization noted that the shortage is putting economic stress in many countries.
The elderly and persons with disabilities are most affected by this shortage.
Fortunately, in the U.S., there are programs that could help fill in the driver shortage. It won’t bridge the gap entirely, but it's a start.
Introduction to Volunteer Driver Programs in NEMT
Those with special needs may not be able to avail themselves of transportation, be it private or public. And if transportation does become available to these sectors, affordability is another concern.
So, the volunteer driver program was established.
What are Volunteer Driver Programs?
They are initiatives that connect transportation services with volunteer drivers and passengers with special needs.
The main purpose of the program is to deliver medical attention and care to those who need it.
According to a study, some 3.6 million Americans miss medical appointments due to transport issues. The majority of the affected sectors are the following:
- Older people
- Low income families
Delayed medical care may cost more in the long run.
The government-initiated Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly, or PACE, helps seniors get the medical care they need. But such a service needs PACE transportation in order to work.
PACE beneficiaries prefer using NEMT as the main transportation because of its accessibility and convenience. So, it is expected that partnerships between NEMT companies and volunteer driver programs are needed to cater to a large part of the population.
The Importance of Volunteer Driver Programs in Healthcare Access
Many people, including seniors and persons with disabilities, have relied on volunteer driver programs for their healthcare and other needs.
Here are some of the benefits of this initiative:
Elderly People and Persons With Disabilities Get the Necessary Medical Care
The elderly are physically vulnerable. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2022, some 23.5% of people over 65 years old were said to have had fair to poor health conditions.
The same report noted that these were the leading health issues:
- Heart disease
They need to see their doctors regularly for all these health problems. It is recommended that once a person turns 50, they should get checkups at least once a year. Once diagnosed with a chronic disease, they should go to all recommended appointments for treatment.
But transportation is one of the major barriers to healthcare access. The volunteer driver program helps ensure seniors and all other patients in need can go to their appointments. It will be easier for doctors to treat patients that they see regularly and closely monitor their health.
Persons with disabilities may not need to see their doctors as often as older adults or those with chronic conditions. However, being consistent with appointments will make a huge difference in their overall well-being.
Volunteers Help With the Driver Shortage
Volunteer NEMT drivers will do a lot of good for the community.
As earlier mentioned, there is a global driver shortage. This affects many industries, and NEMT is one of them. Since many underserved individuals benefit from NEMT, they can also utilize this volunteerism project.
The Program Helps Underprivileged Individuals
The underprivileged individuals are the most affected by transportation issues in our society. They cannot afford private cars and would have difficulty using public transport. Persons with disabilities and older adults with special needs require specially designed vehicles to get around because of their mobility issues.
To make matters worse, those living under the poverty line may not have the means to access information about NEMT transportation because they don’t have smartphones, computers, or internet connections. They may not even know there is a way to take advantage of accessible and modern transportation.
Qualifications and Requirements for Volunteer Drivers in NEMT
An NEMT driver is not your average driver; far from it, actually. They need a basic understanding of safety requirements when handling NEMT passengers, especially those with special medical and mobility needs.
Most NEMT drivers also have basic medical training.
The following are some of the most common NEMT driver requirements:
Clean Driving Record
It is a given that all NEMT drivers must have a professional license. But driving for NEMT means they must have a clean driving record too. Traffic penalties or violations are out of the question.
Experience in a Healthcare Setting
The elderly may be slow and frail, so NEMT drivers must be able to provide comfortable and safe transport for them. Many of the passengers NEMT drivers pick up have canes, walkers, and wheelchairs. Drivers must be capable of assisting them best as they can when they get on and off the vehicle.
Drivers under a volunteer program, which is not a full-time position, are not expected to have such experience. However, basic NEMT driver training is still crucial so that they can assist seniors and persons with disabilities.
Excellent Customer Service Skills
Customer service skills are needed in nearly all professions and in all industries. It is even truer in the NEMT industry since the majority of clients are those with special needs. The driver, whether a volunteer or a full-time worker, must be attentive and patient to the passengers.
Seniors, by nature, tend to complain a lot and can be quite negative. Drivers need to listen and respond to them in an understanding manner. According to some Aging experts, irritability and negativity could be borne by the following:
- Effects of medication
- Chronic pain
Knowledge of Basic Technology
For excellent NEMT service, efficient medical software is needed. RouteGenie, for example, allows NEMT providers to properly schedule trips and plan routes. It provides an effective dispatching process with real-time monitoring of the entire fleet.
Volunteer drivers must have basic knowledge of how NEMT software works and how they can respond to dispatch instructions and queries.
How Does One Avail of Volunteer Drivers?
Volunteer driver programs are local projects. Get in touch with your community leaders or organizations to know how the program works in your area.
In New York, the service is free. However, passengers may receive a monthly communication asking for donations to give as an honorarium to drivers.
These programs can be quite busy, so it’s best to call for the service at least two days in advance. The program will assess the eligibility of the passenger and schedule the ride.
Many seniors and persons with disabilities cannot go to their scheduled doctor's appointments due to a lack of appropriate transportation. Even when there are NEMT companies to accommodate their needs, there is an ongoing driver shortage.
The volunteer driver program is a much-needed initiative to help the most underserved sectors of society. Search for volunteer driver programs near me for more information
About the author
As RouteGenie's Marketing Director, Yurii gained deep knowledge in the NEMT industry. He is an expert in marketing, utilizing all marketing channels to build RouteGenie's brand and to make sure NEMT providers have access to powerful NEMT software that can boost their growth. Yurii shares his knowledge by writing content on topics related to marketing, and the healthcare industry: medical transportation, home care, and medical billing.READ MORE